Cappadocia in Turkey is unique in many ways: its distinct landscape of fairy chimneys is mesmerizing, to say the least. We all know the dreamy pictures of hot air balloons floating above the out of this world view. With its uniqueness come bus loads of tourists aiming for the ultimate Cappadocia experience. The result is that you get stuck in a place flooded with people, ruining the magic of the experience. We have covered this topic before in our article about how to slow travel to popular destinations. This time, we reveal how to discover Central Cappadocia away from the herds.
In the heart of Cappadocia, you will find Göreme Open Air Museum. It is the first (and sometimes even only) stop for most people visiting Cappadocia. If you want to stay away from the crowds, you will find it is almost impossible in Göreme, especially in high season. If you are interested in reading more about it, this article from resident Duke Dillard from captivatingcappadocia.com will tell you all about it. Still, it is possible to experience Cappadocia in high season while having the place almost entirely to yourself. If this is how you prefer things, keep reading! Just a few kilometers past Göreme, you will find Zelve Open Air Museum. And while it may not have as many well-preserved churches covered with frescoes as its Göreme counterpart, this museum certainly makes up for that lack, with a more immersive feel of Cappadocia. What can you expect? A beautiful and authentic site with fascinating caves, churches, wineries and much more. During a morning visit in August, we virtually had the place to ourselves and felt as if we could almost feel what it must have been like to live in this place of silence, serenity, and beauty. Life must have been harsh, but also in harmony with nature and the elements.
There is more to Cappadocia than fairy chimneys, caves, and churches. With a strategic position along the Silk Road, you will also find caravansarais, some of them carefully restored, like Saruhan Kervansaray. Built in 1238, the caravanserai provided a place to stay for travelers and their animals after a day’s journey. It had a courtyard as well as a Turkish bath and a masjid (a place to pray). You will be charged a small entrance fee that covers for the privately financed restoration of this historic building. At no more than a 10 minutes drive from Göreme, you are likely to be the only visitors of this stunning building. If you are interested in seeing the whirling dervishes perform, the caravansarai hosts a performance every night. You will find more information on their website. (link in the title)
Paşabağ: impressive fairy chimneys
Paşabağ is located on the way to Zelve Open Air Museum. It is a small site, that can easily be a stop on your way to visit Zelve. Our advice is to visit early morning or late in the evening. There is no entrance fee, and the site is accessible at all times, making it easy to avoid the crowds to enjoy the magic of these giant chimneys intensely.
Çavuşin Kilisesi: one-stop church
When visiting all of the above from Göreme, you will be passing Çavuşin Kilisesi, a rather impressive chimney hosting a church with a view. As this church is situated along the main road, it is easy to spot if you will have to deal with other visitors. So just hit the brakes whenever the parking lot is empty and work your way up.
All of these places are within a very short drive from Göreme and will let you discover Cappadocia in a very different way. We are not claiming you shouldn’t visit Göreme Open Air Museum, but merely offering alternatives to those preferring a different way of traveling. Ready to come and see it for yourself? Taka Ev is the perfect place to stay in Cappadocia. It’s beautifully and centrally located, with stunning cave rooms and views to die for. And as if this wasn’t enough, the owner Murat is an invaluable source of information about the area. Soon, we will be taking you a little further afield to the hidden gems of Cappadocia, just outside the national park perimeter. Stay tuned! What is your ultimate Cappadocia experience?
Would you like to read what visitors have to say before you go? Read these reviews of Cappadocia to get an even better picture. If you are looking for a reliable guide for the area, we can recommend Captivating Cappadocia: The Comprehensive Guidebook to the Heart of Turkey. It is written by a local resident who knows the area inside out and available as a Kindle edition for more convenience. For those wanting to get a better insight in the wall paintings in Cappadocia’s churches the book Painting in Cappadocia: A Guide to the Sites and Byzantine Church Decoration. The book serves as a travel guide to the most important painted churches featuring numerous color illustrations, plans, and maps.
There is no shortage of charming places to stay in Cappadocia, but we can’t recommend Taka Ev highly enough. As an alternative, for those preferring a vacation rental Anitya Cave House in Ürgüp has charm in abundance.
The nearest airport is Kayseri, which has easy connections with Istanbul airports if required. You’ll find cheap flight options here. Or you can use the search widget on the side to easily find the cheapest and best flights available.
All pictures © @Aegean.Images